Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament

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On June 8th, 2022, the European Parliament adopted a joint resolution on violations of media freedom and the safety of journalists in Georgia, expressing concern about the deteriorating media situation and the safety of journalists in the country in recent years. The resolution condemns cases of intimidation, threats and violence against journalists and calls on the Georgian authorities to investigate any manifestation of violence and to punish those responsible for inciting and carrying out violent attacks. In addition, the resolution includes an amendment, calling on the European Council and its democratic partners to consider imposing personal sanctions on Bidzina Ivanishvili.

Several days prior, on June 6th, Andrius Kubilius, the co-president of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, and the vice-chairman of the European People’s Party, Rasa Juknevičienė, addressed the Georgian people in the form of an open letter, stating that if the outcome on the path to EU membership is less optimistic, the Georgian people and political powers should not be disappointed, since, despite numerous warnings, the government has not done enough to keep Georgia in the forefront of EU integration.

In parallel, a discreditation campaign against Georgia’s Western partners has emerged on social media, involving both the members of the incumbent Georgian Dream party and pro-governmental experts. ‘Myth Detector’ has identified:

  • 12 pro-governmental Facebook pages aimed at discrediting the opposition, seeking to undermine the role of the MEPs and underscore their affiliation with the ‘United National Movement (UNM).’
  • 5 of the 12 Facebook pages (Information Blog, GeoPress, Political Satire, newsagency.ge, Georgian Dream – My Choice) featured sponsored posts.

Amid the monitoring process, ‘Myth Detector’ identified the following key messages: 

  • The resolution reflects the narrow political interests of the UNM, which is being lobbied by the selected MEPs;
  • The resolution was not drafted in a professional way and is hence insulting to the Georgian people;
  • The resolution is a direct attack on Georgia and the county’s image.

Actors:

Facebook pages and pro-governmental media

Pro-governmental Facebook pages aimed at discrediting the opposition sought to accuse the MEPs of collaborating with the United National Movement and lobbying for their interests. At the same time, together with the opposition, specific MEPs, as well as Europe and the US in general, were accused of sacrificing Georgia by fragging it in the war with Russia.

  • Linking the MEPs to the UNM: Facebook account ‘Terenti Gldaneli’ published a video of Mikheil Saakashvili, the description of which stated that the European Parliament is protecting the former president of Georgia. Facebook page ‘Time for Truth’ claimed that the European MEPs consider “sadists and maniacs” as bearers of European values, hence they want to help them to regain power and drag Georgia into the war.
    Screenshot 27 1 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament
  • Against individual MEPs: Facebook page Time for Truth wrote that in addition to Russian disinformation, Georgia should’ve stopped the fake news coming from Anna Fotyga and Andrius Kubilius.
    Screenshot 28 1 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament

The Facebook page Mikhail Ukrainologist published a story of ‘Imedi TV’ which stated that MEP Rafael Glucksmann was arranging “voyages” at the expense of the Georgian budget, and according to the Facebook page, this was the main reason why he still lobbies in support of the UNM. Identical information was published on Facebook pages Blog News, GeoPress, and POSTV Analytics.

Screenshot 29 1 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament

Based on the statement of Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of the GD party, where he compared Andrius Kubilius and Rasa Juknevičienė are compared to Georgian opposition leaders Gubaz Sanikidze and Salome Samadashvili, selected Facebook pages (Reality, Political Satire) published photos, in which Andrius Kubilius and Rasa Juknevičienė are compared to Georgian opposition leaders. In addition, the Facebook page “Political Satire” called on the MEPs on behalf of the Georgian people to ‘take care of their own business and their countries.”

Screenshot 30 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament
MEP Marketa Gregorova has also become the target of the discreditation campaign. The Facebook page Newsagency.ge, which positions itself as a media outlet, as well as pro-governmental expert Davit Kartvelishvili, have disseminated a false claim that Marketa Gregorova wanted to name Megis Kardava, Davit Kozerakharashvili and Davit Kezeratashvili as political refugees in the EU resolution.

Screenshot 31 1 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament

  • Czech MEP Marketa Gregorova has become the target of pro-governmental accounts over her demand for the sanctioning of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the founder of the Georgian Dream. Old videos of Gregorova have been published by the selected pro-governmental Facebook pages (1,2), as well as individual GP supporter accounts(1, 2) and ‘Alt-Info’ supporters (1).
    Screenshot 32 1 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament
  • Agains the resolution. The Facebook page “Ar Agarevinebt,” created on May 5th, 2022, published the assessments of Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili and the pro-Governmental movie director Goga Khaindrava, in which they criticized the EU resolution. The page also featured a fragment from a famous Georgian movie with the following quote: “Stop being a man and start playing with double standards” (Editors interpretation) indicating that the quote is the whole concept of the EU resolution.
    Screenshot 33 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament
  • The West seeks to drag Georgia into the war and Ivanishvili is being punished for this very reason.  The same Facebook page published several comments of government supporters: Vato Shakarishvili, the independent member of the city assembly and Gia Gachechiladze, accentuating the fact that Georgia was being punished by the West for maintaining peace.

Vato Shakarishvili: “Today, we have been told that maintaining peace is punishable!”

Gia Gachechiladze: “If Georgia’s European integration entails us being involved in the war, then we do not want it…“

Screenshot 34 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament

  • The propaganda message that the West intends to drag Georgia into the war was also integrated into a public opinion poll commissioned by Imedi TV, which aired on June 13 and was widely circulated by other pro-governmental Facebook accounts. One of the questions in the survey was formulated manipulatively (“If the West were to demand Georgia to join the war against Russia, what should Georgia’s position be?”). The question sought to cultivate fears among the population by using the technique of false dilemma.Screenshot 35 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament

Sponsored Discreditation Campaign

Facebook posts published against the MEPs by the page “Political Satire’ were sponsored.

Screenshot 36 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament

The posts were sponsored in the cases of two other Facebook pages, Geopress and a News Blog, which pose as news agencies because, although the web pages listed in the ‘About Us’ section are only formally designed to meet Facebook’s transparency standards. There are only 3 pieces of information posted on the Geopress page, while the website of the News Blog web is not functioning at all.

Screenshot 37 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament

Geopress’ has sponsored the post involving the opinion of philosopher Zaza Shatirishvili, according to whom the US wants to open a second front in Georgia so much that they do everything to do so. The same page has sponsored a Facebook post featuring a comment of pro-governmental expert Gia Abashidze, in which he claims that the MEPs are replicating the “partisan slogans” of the “United National Movement”.

Screenshot 38 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament

Another statement of Shatirishvili regarding Georgia’s EU membership was sponsored by the Facebook page Blog News in May. According to Shatirishvili, the issue of EU membership was raised by the Americans, as they have no other tool to overthrow the government in Georgia. Dimitri Khundadze’s statement was also sponsored on the same page, where he said that the resolution has put Georgia’s independence in danger.

Screenshot 39 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament
Facebook posts published against the MEP Rafel Glucksmann by the pages  Blog NewsGeoPress, POSTV were also sponsored.

Screenshot 40 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament

The post of Geopress, which contained false information about the MEP Marketa Gregorova was also sponsored. Gela Mikelaishvili was indicated as the sponsor. The Facebook page ‘Newsagency.ge’ was created on September 21st, 2021, however, the activity on the page has been observed since March 2022, publishing only 5 posts.

Screenshot 41 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament
Sponsored statements of Kakha Kaladze, Irakli Garibashvili and Irakli Kobakhidze also appear on the Facebook page “Georgian Dream – My Choice,” which is linked to the ruling party.

Screenshot 42 Sponsored Posts and Pro-Governmental Actors Against the Members of the European Parliament
The Messages of the Ruling Party and Pro-governmental Experts 

  • The resolution was not drafted in a professional way and is hence insulting to the Georgian people.

The text of the resolution was negatively assessed by both the members of the incumbent Georgian Dream party and pro-governmental experts. According to Irakli Kobakhidze, the chairman of the Georgian Dream party, “It is extremely disturbing when even such a high-ranking EU institution falls victim to fake news, one of the biggest diseases of the modern world.” Other members of the Georgian Dream labelled the resolution as insignificant and insulting to the Georgian people.

‘Georgian Dream’ Members Pro-governmental Experts
Kakha Kaladze, the Mayor of Tbilisi: “What we heard and saw yesterday in the form of the resolution was absolutely disgraceful. It was a direct insult to the Georgian people.” Ramaz Sakvarelidze
“It turns out that the West does not respect our people and the result will be reciprocal. Then the reaction of the whole population to the West will be negative.”
Irakli Kobakhidze, Chairman of the Georgian Dream: “The resolution, which calls on the Government to release Saakashvili and Gvaramia and names Bidzina Ivanishvili as the main enemy of the Georgian Democracy, has nothing to do with European values and is worthless.”
Zaal Anjaparidze:
“The insult that the European Parliament, with its resolution, inflicted on the Georgian society today, should not go unanswered.”
Irakli Garibashvili, Prime Minister of Georgia: “I will wait until June 23-24 and if the decision of the European Commission is as unfair and just as offensive to our country and people, I will uncover everything and tell people the truth.” Gia Abashidze: “There are too many factual mistakes in the resolution. This was done to the Georgian society, which has a very good memory. It turns out that the Georgian people are pro-European, but the government is pro-Russian.” 
Aluda Gudushauri, GD Member:This resolution has nothing to do with objectivity or justice, and what is non-objective, what is unfair, naturally, it can not be implemented.” Tamta Megrelishvili: “The presented resolution is clearly based on false facts. The European Parliament resolution is ridiculous when it argues that the standard of media and democracy was better before 2012 than after the Georgian Dream came to power.”
Dimitri Khundadze, GD Member: “We have not seen such an unjust Europe during the period of Georgia’s independence. We can not give up our dignity to get the status! Yesterday was not a day to demonstrate the recognition of democracy and the independence of our country. […] Yes, interfering in the internal affairs of the state and denying the choice of the majority of the population is an attempt to undermine the independence of the country.” Andria Gvidiani::  “The text of the resolution is a clear insult to the Georgian people. The text of the document does not say anything about the achievements that Georgia has made in recent years, which clearly confirms that the document is biased.”
Nikoloz Samkharadze, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee:Given that there are a number of mistakes in the resolution, this already shows that we should not pay too much attention to it, as a resolution saturated with such errors raises many questions.”  
Gia Volski, GD Member: “I would not say that the European Parliament is a victim of fakes, I would say that there are people in the European Parliament who create fakes.”  

The resolution reflects the narrow political interests of the UNM, which is being lobbied by the selected MEPs

According to the assessments of the Georgian Dream members and selected pro-governmental experts, the text of the resolution is the result of the lobby of the United National Movement and the violations that are mentioned in the document should, in fact, be attributed to the former ruling party. 

‘Georgian Dream’ Members Pro-governmental Experts
Nikoloz Samkharadze, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee: “Of the 308 people who voted for the resolution, 250 may not have read it at all, but because it was initiated by their party members, they voted for it.” Andria Gvidiani:: “The text of the resolution adopted as a result of the lobby of the United National Movement is an insult to the Georgian people. It is extremely unjust when the entire document is tailored to the narrow political interests of one political group, where neither the interests of Georgia nor the interests of the Georgian people are taken into account.”

 

Mamuka Mdinaradze, Chairman of the Georgian Dream: “Anyone who associates Mikheil Saakashvili with democracy, human rights, media pluralism, media freedom, either has no idea what he is talking about or deliberately harms this country. Ms Fotyga has an idea of ​​what is happening in this country, and if she still connects all the above-mentioned to him, she is doing it on purpose, and she is one of the lobbyists and may even be the one giving the tasks.” Tamta Megrelishvili:: A couple of words about the resolution bought with the money of the “National Movement” […] is clearly based on false facts. The resolution smells like a lot of money. Lobbying has gone beyond all bounds.”
Topic: Politics
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